What Gethsemane Teaches Us about the Election

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Faced with the greatest decision of all time, Jesus fell to His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked that His disciples likewise pray. Unfortunately, Jesus’ disciples did not feel the weight of the moment. Instead, they drifted into slumber—twice (Matt. 26:26–46). Today the fate of humanity may not rest in the balance, but the fate of our nation very well may. We are 13 days from concluding what many are heralding as the most important election in the history of our country. Based upon the competing political party platforms, either we will embrace our Christian heritage and the government it produced, or we will reject our biblical moorings and seek to replace our government with another rooted in Humanism. Faced with this decision, do we find ourselves following the example of Christ, or can we better relate with His weary disciples?

In 2016 there was a widespread sense among Christians that our way of life and religious liberties truly hung in the balance. The gravitas of the election was palpable. Having endured an unprecedented assault upon traditional values and religious liberty, Christians across the nation pleaded with God for mercy and favor. Focused prayer for the election seemed to be a constant across all denominational lines. Never can I recall such a concerted effort to pray for a presidential election, and the result was remarkable.

It is worth recalling that, for months, the media almost universally predicted a landslide victory for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, ignoring any polls or data indicating otherwise. The Washington Post ran the headline “Trump’s Path to an Electoral College Victory Isn’t Narrow. It’s Nonexistent,”[1] and Politico reported:

In June, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent called it “a fantasy.”[2] In July, Moody’s Analytics suggested that the electoral outcome was a done deal—Clinton would win easily.[3] In August, one of The POLITICO Caucus’s GOP insiders declared that for Trump to win, “it would take video evidence of a smiling Hillary drowning a litter of puppies while terrorists surrounded her with chants of ‘Death to America.’”[4] In September, on With All Due Respect, 2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe broke down why he believed Hillary Clinton had a 100 percent chance of winning.[5] In October, the editor-in-chief of GQ, Jim Nelson, penned an essay titled, “Let’s Face It, Donald Trump Is About to Lose.”[6] And the day before the election, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball prophesied 322 electoral votes for Clinton and 216 for Trump.[7][8]

On the heels of such reporting, and just a day before the election, CNN wrote, “Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning the presidency rose from 78% last week to 91% Monday before Election Day, according to CNN’s Political Prediction Market.”[9] Likewise, the Huffington Post gave Clinton a 98.2% chance of winning, declaring, “Donald Trump has essentially no path to an Electoral College victory.”[10] And the New York Times gave Clinton an 85% chance of victory, writing, “A victory by Mr. Trump remains possible: Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same as the probability that an N.F.L. kicker misses a 37-yard field goal.”[11] The Times even provided a link to several YouTube videos showing N.F.L. kickers successfully making such a field goal.

Despite the media’s confidence, Donald Trump won a decisive victory on November 8, 2016, having won 306 Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232 votes.[12][13] He even secured three staunchly liberal states that had been termed “the blue wall:” Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. The last time a Republican candidate had won any of these states was in 1988.[14]

For many secular and Christian analysts alike, the only reasonable conclusion was supernatural intervention. Christian apologist Dr. Michael Brown wrote, “I believe Trump has been elected president by divine intervention. I’m aware, of course, that some people believe that everything happens by the will of God, which means that whoever wins the presidency wins by God’s express will. Yet there are times when there are so many odds against something happening, when it so greatly defies logic, that it is easier to recognize God’s involvement.”[15] Likewise, the American Pastors Network issued an email press release with the subject line, “No Other Explanation – God worked a Miracle, as Christian Voters Spoke Loud and Clear.” In it they wrote, “When the polls are so off and the pundits get it so wrong and we can see no other explanation for a Donald Trump victory, we can rest assured that it is God who worked a miracle. We knew and prayed that at the end of the day, a win – should God provide one – would be humanly impossible and all would have to thank God for His doing.”[16]

Those who attributed Donald Trump’s victory to God believed it was a direct response to prayer. Franklin Graham told the Washington Post, “Hundreds of thousands of Christians from across the United States have been praying. This year they came out to every state capitol to pray for this election and for the future of America. Prayer groups were started. Families prayed. Then Christians went to the polls and God showed up. While the media scratches their heads and tries to understand how this happened, I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.”[17]

Faced with an imminent threat, God’s people fell to their knees in 2016. Can the same be said in 2020? Indeed, 2020 seems to stand in stark contrast to 2016. Perhaps God’s people are weary from four years of political chaos, or from aggressive tweets and the lack of decency and dignity in political dialogue, or from eight months of COVID-19 disruptions, or from the onslaught of fake news, or from months of race riots, or from being told we are inherently racist, or from anything else that has kept us on high alert and in a fighting posture for far too long. Perhaps we are simply tired—too tired to stay alert, too tired to stay engaged, too tired to stay on our knees.

After all, earlier this year it seemed a Trump victory in November was inevitable. If nothing else, the nation’s record economic numbers would almost certainly carry him across the finish line. But then came COVID-19, national lockdowns, Black Lives Matter, and race riots. Now, some are speculating that Biden is “cruising to victory,[18] and we are bombarded with such headlines as “Biden Landslide Creeps into View” (Hill),[19] “Joe Biden Might Win in a Landslide. That Would Make Things More Complicated” (Washington Post),[20] and “Joe Biden May Win More Than 400 Electoral Votes, but There’s a Long Way to Go” (CNN).[21]

No longer is a Trump victory hailed as inevitable. Likewise, those forecasting a Biden landslide may be falling prey to the same mistakes that led the same analysts to forecast a Clinton landslide in 2016. And this is to say nothing about the ways in which the integrity of our elections is being uniquely undermined at this time. Regardless of which candidate we may support, the outcome is anything but certain. This means our fight to see leaders elected who will respect and uphold biblical principles and our nation’s Christian heritage is not yet over. There is no time to sleep. As Jesus told His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand,” (Matt. 26:45).

People are presently casting their votes. Our hour is at hand. Where are God’s prayer warriors? The spiritual battle for the heart and soul of our country is being fought in the election box, and our victory will require more than conventional wisdom. We need supernatural intervention. It is time for God’s people to wake up and follow the example Jesus set for us. With so much at stake, we must fall to our knees and seek the Lord’s favor. It is time that we sense the gravity of the moment and employ the most powerful weapon in our arsenal—prayer.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Rothenberg, Stuart. “Trump’s Path to an Electoral College Victory Isn’t Narrow. It’s Nonexistent.” PowerPost. Washington Post, October 18, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/10/18/trump-electoral-college-victory-non-existent.

2. Sargent, Greg. “Can Trump Ride White Anger into the White House? A New Analysis Suggests It’s a Fantasy.” Plum Line Opinion. Washington Post, June 2, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/06/02/can-trump-ride-white-anger-into-the-white-house-a-new-analysis-suggests-its-a-fantasy.

3. Needham, Vicki. “Election Model: Clinton Will Win Easily.” Policy. The Hill, July 1, 2016. http://thehill.com/policy/finance/economy/prediction-hillary-clinton-easily-wins-beats-donald-trump-moodys-presidential-election-model.

4. Shepard, Steven. “GOP Insiders: Trump Can’t Win.” Politico Caucus. Politico, August 12, 2016, 5:03 a.m., EDT. https://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/donald-trump-electoral-votes-gop-insiders-226932.

5. “David Plouffe on Why Donald Trump Can’t Get to 270.” Bloomberg video, 6:44. Posted by “With All Due Respect,” September 27, 2016, 6:57 p.m., EDT. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-09-27/david-plouffe-on-why-donald-trump-can-t-get-to-270.

6. Nelson, Jim. “Hack Trump.” Culture. GQ, October 18, 2016. https://www.gq.com/story/trump-will-lose-election.

7. Sabato, Larry. “2016 President.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball [University of Virginia Center for Politics], n.d. Last updated November 7, 2016. http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/2016-president/.

8. Arrieta-Kenna, Ruairi. “The Worst Political Predictions of 2016.” Politico Magazine, December 28, 2016. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/the-worst-political-predictions-of-2016-214555.

9. Kenny, Caroline. “Political Prediction Market: Clinton’s Odds Rise Again.” Politics. Politics. CNN, n.d. Last updated November 8, 2016. Last updated 12:17 p.m., ET. https://www.cnn.com/2016/11/07/politics/political-prediction-market-hillary-clinton-donald-trump/.

10. Jackson, Natalie. “HuffPost Forecasts Hillary Clinton Will Win with 323 Electoral Votes.” Politics. Huffington Post, November 11, 2016, 6:51 p.m., ET. Last Updated November 8, 2016. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/polls-hillary-clinton-win_us_5821074ce4b0e80b02cc2a94.

11. Katz, Josh. “Who Will Be President?” TheUpshot. New York Times, n.d. Last updated November 8, 2016 10:20 p.m., ET. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/presidential-polls-forecast.html.

12. “Presidential Results.” Politics. CNN, n.d. Last updated February 16, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/election/results/president.

13. “Presidential Election Results: Donald J. Trump Wins.” Election 2016. New York Times, August 9, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president.

14. Schleifer, Theodore. “Trump Stomps All over the Democrats’ Blue Wall.” Politics. CNN, n.d. Last updated, November 9, 2016, 11:18 a.m., ET. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-blue-wall/.

15. Brown, Michael. “Donald Trump – President-Elect by the Sovereign Intervention of God.” One News Now, November 9, 2016. https://onenewsnow.com/perspectives/michael-brown/2016/11/09/donald-trump-president-elect-by-the-sovereign-intervention-of-god?.

16. Boston, Rob. “Did God Engineer Trump’s Win?” Americans United, November 11, 2016. https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/did-god-engineer-trump-s-win.

17. Bever, Lindsey. “Franklin Graham: The Media Didn’t Understand the ‘God-Factor’ in Trump’s Win.” Acts of Faith. Washington Post, November 10, 2016, 12:38 p.m., EST. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/10/franklin-graham-the-media-didnt-understand-the-god-factor/.

18. Linker, Damon. “Let’s Be Real: Biden Is Cruising to Victory.” Week, September 29, 2020. https://theweek.com/articles/940116/lets-real-biden-cruising-victory.

19. Stanage, Niall. “The Memo: Biden Lindslide Creeps into View.” Hill, October 13, 2020, 6:00 a.m. EDT. https://thehill.com/homenews/the-memo/520692-the-memo-biden-landslide-creeps-into-view.

20. Byler, David. “Joe Biden Might Win in a Landslide. That Would Make Things More Complicated.” Opinions. Washington Post, September 9, 2020, 3:17 p.m., EDT. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/09/joe-biden-might-win-landslide-that-would-make-things-more-complicated/.

21. Enten, Harry. “Joe Biden May Win More Than 400 Electoral Votes, but There’s a Long Way to Go.” CNN, n.d. Last updated June 19, 2020, 7:14 a.m., ET. https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/19/politics/electoral-votes-joe-biden/index.html.


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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